Two years after a coup ended Myanmar’s short-lived democratic experiment, the country’s military is planning elections that analysts warn could lead to more bloodshed as opposition to the junta rule lingers.
Observers also say the planned poll cannot be free and fair under the current circumstances.
Allegations of voter fraud in the last election in November 2020 – overwhelmingly won by Democratic figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – were the military’s excuse to seize power on February 1, 2021.
Although the claims were never substantiated, the generals arrested Suu Kyi and other leading civilian leaders in a series of pre-dawn raids.
With the political opposition decimated and the junta backed by tacit support from close allies Russia and China, the military is expected to hold new elections later this year — no later than August, according to the constitution.
But with resistance raging from the hilly jungles of the borderlands to the plains of the military’s traditional recruiting grounds, people in large parts of the country are unlikely to vote — and risk reprisal if they do.
Any poll conducted by the junta will be “like a cart with only one wheel,” a former Yangon official who has been on strike since the coup told AFP.
“It’s not going to bring any progress in any way,” he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal.
In the jungle near the border with Thailand, Lin Lin, a member of one of dozens of “People’s Defense Force” groups fighting against the junta, vowed that elections would not affect their mission to remove the military from Myanmar’s politics. expel.
“We will hold our guns until we have our elected government,” he told AFP.
More than a million people have been displaced by violence since the coup, according to the UN.
Last week, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said the country was facing a “catastrophic situation, which only exacerbates human suffering and violations of rights every day”.
The state of emergency imposed by the junta expires at the end of January, after which new elections must be held according to the constitution.
The government of junta supremo Min Aung Hlaing has not set a date, but last week gave all existing and aspiring political parties two months to register with its election commission.
Military negotiators are working on a patchwork of constituencies large enough to give credibility to elections, including ethnic rebel groups left out of the post-coup chaos and smaller, regional parties.
But voting is likely to be impossible in many parts of the country, said Htwe Htwe Thein of Curtin University in Australia.
“In areas they do control, people may be forced to vote and vote for the junta-affiliated party or parties,” she told AFP.
“People would certainly assume they are being watched – and there could be a penalty for not voting or voting against the junta.”
Threats have also been made by anti-coup fighters against those who cooperated in the elections, with local media reporting several attacks on teams verifying voter rolls in the commercial center of Yangon.
The junta’s “technical ability to stage even clearly fake elections will be limited by a lack of bureaucratic capacity, confusion, boycotts and violence,” independent analyst David Mathieson told AFP.
Any poll would be “beyond fraudulent,” Mathieson warned.
“These are not real elections, remember. They are a sordid performance to justify the (junta’s) coup claims of corrupt 2020 elections,” he said.
‘Determination and resistance’
With the generals sheltered at the United Nations by Moscow and Beijing — and the international community grappling with crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan — many in Myanmar have given up on outside aid.
It would take nothing short of a “miracle” for Myanmar’s opposition to get the kind of arms support currently pouring into Ukraine, Mathieson said.
Close ally Russia has already supported the polls, and while Washington has urged the international community to dismiss any election as a “sham”, diplomatic sources say neighboring countries like Thailand, India and China are likely to give their tacit approval.
But whatever the outcome, it is unlikely that there will be an end to the violence that has rocked the country.
“The mission is to attack the military dictatorship with the determination of resistance,” Lin Lin said from the jungle near the Thai border.
“If an elected government is elected by the people, we will rest.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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